On my endless quest to visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the globe sometimes it pays to look a little closer to home here in the UK!
Saltaire is a village which can be found near Bradford in Yorkshire England. What makes it special is that it was created by Sir Titus Salt (to which he and the river Aire which run though it give it the name) in the mid 19th century.
The village was built between 1851 and 1872 to provide the workers in his mill with decent housing and other amenities such as a hospital, school, and wash houses.
Titus Salt was a pretty decent bloke and really looked after his workers – even in old age and sickness. He has been named as one of the greatest Victorian philanthropists. Some big businesses today should learn some lessons from him.
Saltaire was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001 and recognised as ”one of the earliest, largest and best preserved nineteenth century ‘model villages’ anywhere in the world.” (Discover Saltaire)
What to do in Saltaire?
The Heritage Trail
Our first stop was the Visitor Information Centre to find out what to see and do on our visit. We picked up a map of the Heritage Trail which takes you through the village to points of interest as you stroll. I purchased the official guide for £1.50 which gives lots of great information to read as you take the trail.
I highly recommend that you take the trail as it was really interesting and you learn a lot about life for ordinary people in 19th century England. (Or those lucky enough to work for Salt as the lives of workers in other areas was not necessarily as good as those in Saltaire)
You will also see lots of beautiful buildings built in the 19th century – from the huge Mill to the almshouses these buildings give a great insight into life in Saltaire in the 1800’s. The village was designed by local architects Lockwood and Mason who designed houses far superior than was the norm for workers at that time (for example they had gas/water/separate kitchens and outside toilets and some even had gardens). The Saltaire United Reformed Church designed by the pair is now a grade 1 listed building.
It is also worth remembering that these houses are lived in – as it states in the official trail booklet “Saltaire is a community and not a museum” so please respect their privacy.
Tip – check out the street names!
Explore Salts Mill
The Mill was opened by Titus Salt in 1853 and some 3000 workers were producing up to 30,000 yards of cloth a day (Saltaire Trail).
In 1987 the now empty and silent mill was bought by Jonathan Silver, an entrepreneur who created the 1853 gallery. The gallery exhibited works by local artists including David Hockney who is from nearby Bradford and was the beginning of the regeneration of the area. The Mill still holds one of the largest collections of Hockneys in the world.
There is loads to see in the Mill – a lot of art from Hockney to enjoy, shops to peruse and a number of places to stop off for a drink/sandwich or a meal. (And the serviette in Salts Diner has the best logo ever – designed by Hockney!!)
How to get to Saltaire
We caught the train to Saltaire as it has its own station and I would highly recommend this option. There are regular train services from Bradford and Leeds and the train station is opposite the mill! Easy! Saltaire has limited parking and using public transport is a more sustainable way to protect the local environment and lessens the impact of tourism on those who live in the village.
Saltaire is built next to the Leeds Liverpool Canal and is an excellent place for a stroll or a hike for those more serious walkers.
The Mill is open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. For more information check out the Saltaire Village website here!
Want to know more about the history of Saltaire?
This wonderful new book by local author Malcolm Hitt and local historian Gary Firth, takes a comparative peep into how Titus Salt’s model industrial village has changed since acquiring the status of a World Heritage site. Images are brought together to compare and contrast changing modes of transport, employment, fashion, retailing and leisure as well as showing change from Victorian times to the new millennium in the housing and public buildings of Saltaire’s historic core. The past and present photographs of Saltaire in this book are due largely to the dynamism and entrepreneurial vision shared by both Salt and Silver in this beautiful and ordered model village. One found it, the other has helped to preserve it. Saltaire Through Time will bring back fond memories of yesteryear for residents new and old, and for all those who love to visit this part of Yorkshire.
This ground-breaking study analyses the building of Saltaire, the famous model town in West Yorkshire. Now a World Heritage Site, it was designed to provide mill-workers housing and is a superb example of enlightened urban planning, created during a 24-year building programme. The authors follow its development through seven building phases and sixteen building contracts, explaining the principles which guided the urban layout and the various house designs. By comparing Saltaire with earlier factory towns and considering its 19th-century architectural context, they describe the design decisions taken and the implications of those choices. They reveal for the first time that the hierarchies apparent in the architecture were the result of the design process and should not be seen as a reflection of the town’s social structure.
Where to stay in Saltaire
UNESCO World Heritage Site
As I have mentioned Saltiare is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To find out more about its inscription visit the UNESCO listing here!
If you are interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the UK then check out my other posts
- Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey
- The Tower of London
- Westminster Abbey
- Cromford Mill
- Hadrian’s Wall
Pin for later – Visiting Saltaire
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